La John Joseph is a regular performance artist and commentator on the queer scene in the UK and beyond. At face value, A Generous Lover is an elaborate, absorbing story of coping with a lover, Orpheus, who suffers from a mental illness. There are plenty of shows tackling these issues at the Fringe but Joseph offers a unique, transfeminine perspective.
Despite Joseph’s devotion in the face of Orpheus’ increasing fragility, the generous lover of the title is not a self reference. Orpheus is stricken with a mania, a mental illness that makes him seem invincible and able to do anything, as any generous lover would.
As a narrator, Joseph adopts the arch tone and mannerisms of Katharine Hepburn, colouring the tale with classical metaphors and mythical horizons. The rest of the story is delivered in languid, bittersweet prose, often amusing and occasionally broken by song.
The songs may seem a little ponderous but they illustrate Joseph’s observational prose perfectly, while the introduction of an outspoken but friendly fellow hospital visitor brings the piece into sharper focus. It’s a slightly schizophrenic experience but once Joseph establishes the shape of the story-telling technique it’s a tender, heartbreaking journey of understanding and deliverance.